My husband left for a work trip at the beginning of last week. Comically, things inevitably fall apart when he leaves town, so I was mostly braced for the thrashings. And there were some, of course. Landon has been a clingy, needy baby like I haven’t seen since the colic days of Adalyn, so that made for a fun week. I was right in the middle of cleaning our house of detergent, so there was tons of superwashing to be done and floors to be scrubbed with soap, etc.
We made some massive strides in improving Adalyn’s eczema this week. I turned the air up and clothed them, mostly from head-to-toe, in eczema gear. Pants with attached “feet,” onesies with built-in mittens, and Scratch Me Not mitten sleeves (which are a Godsend, as it turns out). We bathed multiple times a day, lathering them in aquaphor after baths and once again, covering them from head-to-toe. We bandaged up the open wounds and kissed lots of “ouchies.”
On Wednesday, I began to notice that Landon’s face was getting pretty intense looking. His face is usually scratched and scabbed up, but this was different.
I sent a picture to my friend, who said it could be impetigo, then my mom said the same, so I googled it and figured this must be what it was. So I called the doctor and asked for a prescription for antibiotics. We really dislike antibiotics because they totally wreck our kids’ guts, but there is a definite time and place for them, and skin infection of this severity needs to be addressed.
I loaded the kids up and took them to Target to have the prescription filled Thursday morning. It was by far the worst trip I’ve had with the kids in regards to their eczema. As you can imagine, people reacted quite strongly to Landon’s face. Most looked horrified. There were quite a few double-takes and the cashier literally just stared at him while checking us out. I could not get out of that place fast enough. My cheeks were flushed the whole time and I just wanted to shield my babies from the gawking. I wanted to hide them under a blanket.
I started the antibiotics and we went on our merry way, assuming everything would get patched up quickly.
I went back to the house scrubbing and the intense reading/researching and started jotting down new ideas to try. Having an infection that required antibiotics really drove home the point that we have got to get to the bottom of their eczema. We can’t continue on like this. They are always at heightened risk of infection because their skin is cracked, raw and open 100% of the time.
All three of us were sick during the week, but again, it was more humorous than anything because as we’ve gotten so accustomed to, stuff just happens when Tim’s away. I think I might have gotten three hours of sleep on one singular night last week. The rest of the week it was a broken 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there, shuffling between Landon and Adalyn’s room as they cried out. I love my children, but I would really love it if they learned to sleep. Landon will be one in a few weeks and he wakes up every 1.5 hours consistently. It’s insane. Although can you blame them? They are up clawing at their own flesh all night long, fighting that intense urge to scratch that is so common in eczema sufferers.
Friday night, as I was letting go of some tension and anxiety knowing that Tim would be home the following day, I ended up staying up way too late, reading site after site about eczema. I’m amazed by how many different potential “cures” there are, and sometimes I can get sucked in for hours making mental notes of what to keep trying.
And then I happened upon a picture of eczema herpeticum. In all my years of research, I can honestly say I’ve never stumbled across this term. But the moment I saw the picture of the “punched-out” blisters, my heart sank. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was what Landon actually had. And then I nearly had a heart attack when I read the next few lines, which went a little something like this:
So I googled some more. Article after article said the same: “dermatologic emergency,” “fatal,” “can be life-threatening,” “severe skin infection that requires immediate medical attention,” “The number of days between onset and diagnosis drastically affects the number of days in the hospital,” “often misdiagnosed as impetigo,” “requires antiviral medicine,” “very rare,” etc., etc., etc. What drove it all home was that it is caused by the herpes simplex virus infecting open eczema lesions. I’d had a cold sore the week before.
I felt the blood drain from my face. I had misdiagnosed Landon and just assumed he was totally fine now that he was on antibiotics, I was the one with the cold sore who kissed him and infected his eczema with my virus. It was 3:00 a.m. and I frantically emailed my doctor and called my husband, who was still out of town. Should I take him to the ER now? Wait til morning? What if he died between now and morning? Is that even a possibility?
The questions came and came…and came. We decided together to wait until morning. I could get a few hours of sleep, Landon seemed to be in decent spirits so probably wasn’t knocking on death’s door and I wouldn’t have to wake the kids up. In the morning, Landon’s face had gotten a little better but Adalyn had a blazing fever and was so pathetically sick. Of course. So I lugged the kiddos to Children’s Mercy, where the doctor took one look and said, “Oh, that’s eczema herpeticum. Has anyone in your house had a cold sore recently?” Punch. In. The. Gut.
She told us they may very well have to hospitalize him, and once again, my heart sank. She said she’d consult with the dermatologist and since he seemed to be in good spirits, she’d push to allow him to come home with us and do the medicine and skin treatment regimen at home. Ten nail-biting moments later, she came back and said I could take him home as long as I promised to come back if the sores spread, particularly anywhere near his eyes. I did, of course, and they sent us on our way with lots of instruction and four prescriptions.
And now, here we are, Sunday evening, with three very sick kiddos who need lots of cuddling and kisses. But a grateful heart, because it could have been so much worse. And I know that. The what-ifs are killing me. Why had I just happened upon this obscure mention of eczema herpeticum when I wasn’t even looking up anything to do with skin infection? What would have happened if I hadn’t? If I’d gone on assuming it was impetigo? It’s too much for this mama’s heart.
I believe I learned something I needed to learn this week. I’ve been so, well, whatever about skin infection. I’ve read time and time again how prone to serious skin infection kids with severe eczema are, but I guess after all this time and never having contracted one, I had become dangerously indifferent to the whole idea.
Now, my sweet little boy has a high likelihood of battling this skin infection for life. They said just like cold sores, once you have it once, you have it forever. The virus will stay dormant in his body, and every open sore is at an extreme risk of becoming eczema herpeticum. Every illness he has will put him at high risk of an outbreak. It’s a lot to take, because my heart aches for my baby. But in the end, this will be a blessing in disguise, because to learn first hand that my baby could actually die because of his eczema is all I need to know to stop at nothing to solve this.
I’ve hit a fork in the road: go left, cross our fingers and hope they grow out of it, or go right, fight like mad and do whatever it takes to fix this for good.
What a friggin’ week.
Because I should end on a positive note (and this is VERY positive), Adalyn’s face now has NO eczema on it! Praise the Lord! NONE (this picture is two days old so there was still a tiny bit of eczema left). Her wrists and ankles have improved leaps and bounds this week. I am so very, very thankful!
Fearful that this blog will become an eczema blog (sort of how it became a food blog…and before that, a sewing blog…and before that, you get the point…), I’ve started keeping another blog where I’ll keep up with our journey to heal the kids’ eczema there instead from here on out. I don’t want to inundate people who don’t care about eczema with nothing but eczema tales. :)
I can’t even put into words how helpful it’s been to have Sammy’s Skin. On days like the past few, when I’m feeling hopeless again with another setback, it calms my soul to go back into her archives and read her post when they were a few weeks into detergent removal and not seeing improvement. In hindsight, it’s easy to see that it just takes a long time to get all the detergent out of a home (I have been running laundry loads non-stop since last Saturday and have barely made a dent in all that needs to be super washed), and that setbacks are normal and expected, especially until the skin is totally healed. But perhaps without that resource (a child whose eczema was completely resolved by removing detergent!), I would give up now.
I figured documenting our journey might have the potential to help one other mama, and obviously that’s worth it. So if you have any friends whose children have eczema (even if it isn’t as severe as our kiddos), maybe you could recommend Sammy’s Skin and solveeczema.org and our blog journey.
Things had gotten better here, and then they got worse. Landon’s skin is raw again, Adalyn’s is scabbed up. Both are infected. Landon does this thing where all of a sudden, he’ll just start clawing at his face, crying, and before you know it, it’s ripped up and bleeding. If you try to stop him, he gets so frustrated and mad. Adalyn does it, too, but does at least seem to “get it” a little more, that the clawing leads to more pain. But they both definitely have scabs all over their faces. Adalyn’s wrists are bad again, although nothing like they were right before starting the detergent removal.
The one thing I can say that is a huge positive is that I can actually see the source of these flare-ups sometimes. I’ll see Adalyn rub her face against the couch and then two minutes later, break out exactly where she was rubbing. Though our couch has removable covers that I’ve superwashed, there’s nothing I can do about the cushions, which I’m sure are full of detergent residue, short of going out and buying new leather furniture which obviously is not in the budget at the moment. I’m hoping that once we have eliminated a lot of the sources, the smaller sources like furniture will be little enough exposure that they can handle it.
I found the solveeczema forums last week and between that, talking to AJ (who runs solveeczema) and finding other blogs with children similar to mine, I’ve pinpointed the things that have really seemed to help others.
-We ordered a small selection of organic clothing to see if it helps.
-We bought a water softener because as AJ noted, sometimes the combination of soap and detergent residue (which happens when you have hard water, as it’s almost impossible to get all residue out) creates a hyper itching period, which we definitely have experiened. After talking with her, I knew we had hard water (we have all the signs). I’ve been so disappointed in our switch to soap products. Everything has a film and nothing feels clean, including myself! She thinks having a water softener is extremely important in this process, and CJ from Sammy’s Skin noted that she hypothesizes that part of the reason it took them two months to see the eczema clear up is because they have hard water and no softener, so it took a long time to get the residues out. We haven’t had ours installed yet, but I’m so excited to see how much better the soap works once that bad boy is installed (I hear soap is dreamy if you have soft water and you can use so much less all around).
-We ordered a good water filter. I’ve been wanting the Berkey forever and a day, but could never quite justify it. Now that I’m learning just how much the toxins in our environment might be impacting my family (more than I ever suspected), and have been learning about all the chemicals, medicines and other toxins in the water in the USA, I want to try to get as many toxins out of their environment as is humanly possible. I ordered the countertop filter and the shower filter, as I’ve heard a lot of speculation that the chlorine levels really affect children with eczema. Additionally, there is quite a bit of debate about the use of flouride added to our water here, and as someone with hypothyroidism, I do not want flouride in my water . Not that flouride is bound to be the sole cause of my hypothyroidism, but I would sure love to get off the meds and perhaps there’s a chance this will be a stepping stone.
I’ve become so frustrated and fed up in the last few weeks. Our lives quite literally revolve around my children’s skin. As CJ said on her blog,
I always thought this would be the least of ailments that could strike my child. Eczema is “just dry skin” right? Just slap some moisturizer on it and it will get better. Allergies? Just keep them from the thing they are allergic to, right? No big deal!! Ha. No, this truly sucks (please forgive me, that is actually the worst my language gets, you know I am losing it when I say or type the word “sucks”) and the worst part is that nobody seems to have answers. Sam’s doctor and allergist are clearly just as confused as I am. “There is no reason for eczema!” Eczema just IS. Apparently. It has increased by crazy numbers over the past several decades, there must be a reason, why hasn’t anyone been able to figure this out yet!”
Yes, that, exactly. Eczema? Doesn’t sound so bad. No big deal, it’s just some dry skin. Except it’s not. At all. I haven’t been to church in…four months? Five? I can’t go because if Landon gets even a little tired, he handles it by clawing open his face. With the other children, even though church always fell right at naptime, we could push them through it. With Landon, we can’t. We can’t push him through any amount of tiredness, and certainly not expect the nursery workers to deal with this child screaming and clawing his face completely open and bloody.
I barely take my children out at all anymore. We’ve become recluses. We can rarely go anywhere without people commenting on their skin. Adalyn is old enough. She gets it. She understands. My mom said the other day she looked in the mirror and goes, “Oh no, my face!”
It breaks a mama’s heart. Eczema feels so much worse than what I always thought eczema was. Is it sad that this research study on the effects of eczema on mothers and families was relieving? Sometimes I’ve thought I’m overreacting, or that I can’t tell people how much it actually impacts our daily living because they’d be like, “Um, it’s just eczema.” I haven’t talked about all the tears I’ve shed over it or the amount of my days I spend thinking about their skin (it’s probably 75% of the day, to be honest). But something about someone saying, “Hey, we’ve studied this, it’s a really big deal, it’s really impactful on a family,” makes it feel okay. I shouldn’t have to have my feelings validated, but sometimes I do.
The children with eczema had a mean age of 2.8 years. Mothers of children aged 5 years or less with eczema exhibited significantly higher total stress scores (mean PSI 259.6, 95% CI 244.9 to 274.3) as compared to mothers of normal children (PSI 222.8, 95% CI 221.4 to 224.2) and children with other chronic disorders such as insulin‐dependent diabetes (PSI 218.1, 95% CI 204.7 to 231.6) and profound deafness (PSI 221.7, 95% CI 206.4 to 237.0). Stress scores in the parental domain (138.2, 95% CI 128.9 to 147.6) did not differ significantly from the scores of parents of children with severe disabilities such as those requiring home enteral feeding (135.2, 95% CI 129.3 to 141.1) and those with Rett syndrome (132.8, 95% CI 125.0 to 140.6).
Moderate to severe childhood eczema should be regarded as a significant illness in which maternal stress is equivalent to that associated with the care of children with severe developmental and physical problems.”
Atopic eczema is a common childhood disorder with a prevalence of 10–16% in westernised countries.1Caring for a child with moderate to severe eczema involves a rigorous skin treatment regime, adjustments to family lifestyle, and financial and social costs,2,3,4,5,6 which all can place substantial demands on the caregivers. Mothers are usually the primary caregivers and carry the major burden in caring for a child with a chronic condition.7 Stress will arise if mothers perceive that they cannot adequately cope with these burdens.8
There is little literature documenting the stress experienced by mothers who care for a child with eczema. Most studies have examined the impact of atopic dermatitis on the child, family functioning and quality of life, with a few studies examining the parent–child relationship. Studies that have reported on the experiences of mothers indicate that they describe themselves as more depressive, hopeless and anxiously overprotective.9 They report feeling stressed about their parenting skills, being less efficient in disciplining their child, and less likely to feel socially supported.10“
If you’re a mama with a child who has eczema, you may find the whole study to be strangely relieving.
So that’s that. We’re working really hard to do something about this once and for all. But it’s slow going. And we’re practically on quarantine. If you know us in real life, know that we’re not avoiding everyone on purpose.
For anyone else dealing with eczema, here’s a great little starter questionnaire from AJ @ solveeczema that I pulled from an article I’d highly recommend you read.
Or why I’m learning that everything I’ve thought was true may be wrong.
I want to start by saying that none of this detergent business will ever change my opinion that the only foods we were ever meant to consume are the ones straight from the earth and not chemically or genetically altered by man. For me, that’s a common sense issue. Our bodies were created in an amazing way, and regardless of your beliefs, it’s hard to deny that for all of time, we’ve been eating food, and then suddenly, in the last 5 decades or so, we’ve begun to eat food-like products. Perhaps someday we’ll evolve to eat these products without harm, because our bodies are amazing and adaptable. But we know that evolution takes a long time, so as for me and my family, we’re sticking with foods that we know our body recognizes as food. We have far too many diet-related diseases these days to even attempt to make the argument that the Standard American Diet is good for anyone. The only argument that seems legit is that it’s worth it to continue to eat the Standard American Diet, regardless of side effects, because, like smoking, they often take a long time to manifest and it’s hard as a species to discontinue pleasure now because of something we are at an increased chance of experiencing down the road. Look at how long it took for smoking to became more uncommon (but it certainly still exists!). Even I stop at McDonald’s sometimes, get Starbucks when I’m out shopping, eat chocolate chip cookies. Because I find a way to convince myself that the side effects from the food-like products are worth the satisfaction of eating them (or the ease of preparing processed foods, or the decreased cost of buying them, etc., we all have our own justifications and only you know if it’s truly worth it).
However, this detergent discovery has really changed my thoughts on food sensitivities. A.J. Lumsdaine, the author of Solveevzema.org, said this in an article I read:
“Eczema in babies is often blamed on food allergy, but A.J. knew from her chemistry lab days how hard it is to wash chemical residue from glass or plastic containers. She suspected some of her son’s apparent allergies were actually a reaction to detergent. When he first began eating solid foods, he seemed to be allergic to everything. For instance, he broke out in a rash after eating plain rice porridge A.J. had cooked herself. However, when she switched to soap-based dishwashing cleanser and washed away the detergent residue on the rice cooker, the baby began to eat her home-cooked porridge happily with no reaction. Store-bought foods were also a problem for him. “Many processed foods, especially produce that has to be washed as part of the processing, seem to contain enough traces of detergents to give our son contact eczema,” A.J. says. “It’s interesting to note that many of the foods people think of as causing eczema are also ones likely to accumulate detergent residue from processing, such as eggs and some dairy.”
Just a few weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that Landon appears to be allergic to every food. It’s been a rare meal that I’ve sat him down to where he hasn’t started violently scratching his face to the point of a blood-soaked bib. Inside, I was frantic. The idea of having a child who is allergic to almost every food rocked me to my core, and I was terrified. It seemed as though each child was becoming more and more allergic than the one before. Ben is allergic to peanuts (this is a true allergy which has been confirmed with IgE levels), Adalyn appeared to be allergic to all sorts of things though I hadn’t been able to specifically pinpoint them and Landon? Well, he was pretty much allergic to every food I’d tried. Or so I thought.
Just two weeks ago we visited an allergist and were contemplating whether or not to run all the tests he had ordered for Adalyn (which we knew would set us back a couple thousand dollars and cause her quite a bit of pain and discomfort and the results of those tests are never accurate).
I’ve seen enough difference now in just a few short days that like I said yesterday, I’m pretty confident I can declare this a reaction to detergent. And since washing our dishes in Dr. Bronner’s diluted in water, Landon hasn’t had one meal episode of intense face scratching. He’s been eating the foods I’ve given him without incident. As has Adalyn, who also often appeared to turn red all around her mouth and began scratching after many meals. Because of that, I’d declared her “sensitive” to citrus, tomatoes, dairy, melons, wheat, the list goes on. That poor child was eating just a handful of foods because I was certain she was allergic to everything.
That’s not to say there won’t still be an element of food sensitivity to her or Landon’s eczema. But my theory is that eczema causes a weakened immune system (which is why my kids are ALWAYS sick), and a weakened immune system can contribute to the body’s inability to process certain foods. Totally my theory, but I’m so curious to see if once their skin clears up, they stop getting sick every single week and they begin to be able to tolerate any food I give them.
Truth be told, it would be much easier for my children to have a food intolerance than a detergent intolerance. Much. But if that’s not the reality of the situation, it does me no good to keep on assuming it’s a food intolerance when nothing I’ve eliminated has worked for them. The health world is so inundated with claims that we are now allergic to everything that it’s become ingrained in my psyche that my children must have food intolerances. This detergent thing is rocking my world, though.
Could it be possible that what we have grown to believe is widespread increases in food intolerance (not allergies, which are testable) are actually a widespread reaction to chemicals (detergent)? It’s not that crazy a theory, right? Maybe our gut issues are actually coming from detergents. The majority of our immune system is in our gut. It could of course all be coincidence, but for the first time since I can remember, Adalyn has had two days of zero digestion issues. I won’t elaborate further, but she has been plagued with tummy issues for as long as I can remember, which got much worse after her one round of antibiotics in December. Last night I was talking with my husband about it, and was like, “There’s no way it could be from the detergent,” but he reminded me that our immune system is in our gut, and as A.J. noted above, this detergent is getting into the gut at each meal via the dishes we eat on and the washing of the equipment used during processing. It could be just as likely that it’s the detergent our bodies are reacting to as it is the food. Detergent is naturally irritating to skin, albeit for some people, not enough to notice, so it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to assume it is also irritating inside of our bodies.
Like I said above, it’s easier to eliminate a food, or a food group, than it is to avoid detergents, which are everywhere. And it breaks my heart, because what does this mean for my children…for our family? My parents are coming this weekend, and we are going to great lengths to assure they don’t bring their detergent with them. We’re buying scrubs that they can wear while they’re in our home, which I will be superwashing before they get here. They’ll have to shower in Dr. Bronner’s before coming over and will be using our toothpaste while here. My mom has to wash her face and they have to leave their shoes in our garage. Even their luggage can’t come in. How sad is that?
While it’s easy to make a peanut-free bubble for Ben because there has been so much mainstream attention surrounding the peanut allergy epidemic, will I live to see a day when science recognizes that detergent is harmful to the health of everyone and it will be systematically removed? Or will this just be something my kids deal with for life. Will we have to refrain from having playdates at our house forever? What does this mean for our family? The questions are flooding in now, and I’m overwhelmed, but all the work in the world is nothing for my sweet babies. As long as they are without pain, it’s all worth it.
I can’t stop talking about what’s happened to our family in the last few days because I am just flooded with emotion. It’s been well documented here that my children suffer from eczema, and though I rarely post pictures of them here on my blog anymore, if you follow me on facebook or instagram, you may have seen pictures of them recently.
Truth be told, I stopped posting most pictures of Landon and Adalyn several months back, and if I did ever post, it was carefully selected and highly edited until about a week or two ago, when I decided my children were beautiful and nothing to be hidden! But I stopped posting pictures awhile back because I just didn’t want to hear it. I know that comes off so crazy rude, but it’s hard - draining - when you know what your child looks like, but everywhere you go, everyone has to remind you of how horrifying they look. Everyone has an opinion. It’s not that opinions aren’t desired, because obviously, if my kids are still suffering from eczema, we haven’t found the solution. It’s just tiring. When you get to the point where you feel like you really have tried it all, when someone suggests something, the first place my brain goes is to, “Yeah, right, like that’ll work.”
So it was with skepticism that I entered solveeczema.org on Friday. But in a place of desperation because my kids’ skin has gotten so terrible, I read on. Minutes into the slideshow on her front page, I began to cry. I was totally overwhelmed because everything in my being said YES! CHELSEA, THIS IS IT!!!!!!!!!! The detergent in your home is making your kids sick.
It started with the description of the mom who had done it all over the course of about four years: elimination diets, naturopath, every cream and steroid, herbs, chinese medicine, you name it, she’d done it. Then I read about the diaper-eczema correlation and immediately, light bulbs went off. Ben and Adalyn were cloth diapered. Ben had pretty bad eczema on his face and in his diaper area from about one year to a little before two. Adalyn had no eczema anywhere but her diaper area (which I now know in hindsight, but I always thought it was just a bad diaper rash). Shortly after Landon was born, I became overwhelmed with three children three and under, two in diapers and two of them 17 months apart, and I gave away our cloth diapers and decided we were going to turn to disposables. Since then, Adalyn has had no diaper rashes or eczema in her diaper area.
The diaper protects skin from detergent, since the diaper is on almost all of the time and there is no detergent in disposable diapers. But when my kiddos were in cloth, they had that same detergent in their diaper area as they have elsewhere. Who would have thought that something I was doing to be more considerate to my children’s skin and the environment was actually more harmful for them? It blows my mind a little.
This was extremely compelling for me. As was all the information presented on this site. This is not a normal “mommy blog.” This is a very knowledgable, empowered mother with a science background who resolved to stop at nothing to solve her son’s eczema, and thanks to lots of trial and error and reading a book by T. Brazelton, Touchpoints, she and her husband developed a theory that the introduction of detergent in the 50s correlated quite well with the rising of eczema occurrences. As more products became detergent-based (almost every wash/body care product/”soap”/cleaning product today contains detergent), the incidence of eczema, allergies and asthma began to climb. And as these three diseases are known as the allergy march or the atopic march, curing eczema is beneficial not just in the short-term, but in preventing our children from having to endure asthma in the future.
They tested this theory out by removing detergent from their home (not an easy or quick solution), and when they saw dramatic results, they began a dive into incredibly thorough research, talking to experts all over the world. They’ve consulted biologists, chemists, doctors, dermatologist, etc. I believe quite strongly that they have stumbled across the single factor creating the eczema/asthma/allergy epidemic we see today. Perhaps that’s short-sighted because it looks like it’s proving to be our solution, but she has quite a following of mamas who have also healed their children from not only eczema, but asthma, too!
Friday night I went shopping for paper towels, Dr. Bronner’s, new toothpaste, body soap, laundry soap, shampoo, hair gel, etc. I came home and whipped up cleaning products using vinegar, water, baking soda and Dr. Bronner’s. Only soap can remove detergent residue so I knew it was important to start by cleaning all surfaces with Dr. Bronner’s but then going over them with a water/vinegar solution to keep my whole house from being sticky: check out her recommended procedure here.
A friend came over Saturday morning and helped me scrub down my house. I began the process of “superwashing” all clothes and linens in our house with Zum laundry soap (which contains no detergent) and cleaning all our dishes with Dr. Bronner’s to remove the detergent residue. Finally, we washed the kiddos and ourselves in Dr. Bronner’s and lathered them up in coconut oil (I’m not big on Aquaphor because it’s petroleum-based, but that’s the “barrier moisture” she recommends). I’m not anywhere close to being done cleaning out my house, but already we’ve seen drastic results. It is nothing short of miraculous, and when I think about how I broke down to God on Thursday afternoon in the shower, desperate for relief for my miserable children, and I prayed that He would heal my children or help me heal them, and then on Friday I found a site I’ve never before stumbled across after years of research? It’s just…all Him.
I couldn’t get this blog post up fast enough! A lot of people stumble across my old post about Ben’s facial rash, so I wanted to be able to update my blogaroo so that I can drive traffic to solveeczema.org. The site is amazing, and I really, truly believe this is the answer for so many families who have been struggling unnecessarily for ages with eczema or asthma or quite frankly, even allergies.
It is A LOT of work. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. But it’s an all-or-nothing ordeal. You can’t halfway do it and expect to cure your kids. Her take is that it has to be 100% removal or you might as well do nothing. So we will be homebound for a month, attempting to heal their skin so that it becomes strong enough to resist short, infrequent exposures to detergent at places like church, friends houses, the store, etc.
Here are a few recent pictures of Landon and Adalyn:
And here they are a few days after beginning the process of elimination.
The picture on the left was taken a couple of days before we began eliminating detergent, and the one on the right was today:
The moral of the story is don’t give up! I have seen stories of so many moms who have resorted to things like steroids which carry pretty serious side effects and don’t even rid the body of eczema (or asthma or allergies), but cut down on the outbreaks. This mama’s take, and mine for AGES, has always been that these things are our body’s way of telling us something is wrong. To mask the symptoms with steroid creams really doesn’t solve anything. In fact, it often times exacerbates the problem because you are weakening the immune system. In a similar fashion, we have given one child antibiotics one time and it has irrevocably changed her gut. There is a time and a place for medicine, and I will always utilize it when I feel it’s severe enough, but this is the exact reason I tend to listen to my gut first and go with God’s medicine before man’s. It always made sense to me that to mask the symptoms was doing nothing inside of their little bodies. I was eager to give them relief, though, so I did try a lot of creams and oils and such. But I couldn’t shake how odd it felt to be slathering chemicals all over my children’s severe, inflamed, red, burning, bleeding skin. It was so incredibly counter-intuitive.
From her site:
The global problem of eczema has not been understood or solved by a long shot. In my opinion, taking the common perspective that eczema is the result of a defect inherent in the child is destructive, unwarranted, unscientific, and premature. This defect-perspective has led to virtually every treatment and approach: adding lotion to make up for the defect of dryness, suppressing the immune system to address a supposed malfunction, recommending random experimentation with different personal care products with the underlying assumption that the child’s system has gone haywire and can’t handle “normal” products. None of these approaches has resulted in a lasting, global solution. Perhaps the perspective is right; I personally don’t see it that way. I think the perspective that the problem is a defect in the children leads naturally to these less-than-satisfactory approaches. At the least, until there are more definitive answers, we owe it to the children to keep an open mind.
My son would not have had eczema had we lived 80 years ago, because detergents didn’t exist on the planet. When his skin is not exposed to detergents, it is normal and not unusually dry. For whatever reason, his system chooses to tell me that exposure to detergents is a problem, the same way my body chooses to tell me that banging my knee against the corner of the desk is a problem. From that perspective, the response is a normal warning mechanism, a smart way for the immune system to communicate with the conscious brain, the way the nervous system communicates through pain. I don’t see that as a defect.”
My gut says that if so many children are reacting to this, it can’t be good for anyone. I’ve used this analogy time and time again, but I can think of no better time for it than now: sensitive children are like canaries in a coal mine. They’re out warning that something is wrong. Perhaps I’m off-base, but I believe it bears further studying.
Be your child’s best advocate. Fight for them despite the lack of knowledge in the medical community surrounding eczema. Whatever your child’s health problem is, do your own research. Experiment in your own home. Never give up! Always go with your gut.
I’m not the only person seeing incredible results here. This is the original blog I stumbled upon that pointed me to solveeczema.org and how I found it to begin with.
I recently promised to make a food journal for someone and keep track of what I was eating. I admit I totally forgot on occasion (we’ll go with Mommy Brain), but I backtracked the best I could. We totally splurge on occasion. I’m a believer that if you eat well 90% of the time, your body will be able to handle the 10% crap. It’ll be healthy enough to handle the preservatives and pesticides you throw at it.
I – GASP! – don’t eat breakfast:
I don’t eat breakfast much (except when I’m pregnant and crave it). I spent a lot of my life feeling really terrible about this, but I recently read an article that dispelled the myth that we need to eat lots of small meals throughout the day. Now I don’t feel guilty when I skip meals. I can’t find it to link to, but the premise was that when you think back on traditional diets, when in the course of history do you think people had access to enough food to eat six, seven meals a day? The myth that eating 1500 calories spread through the course of the day or 1500 calories spread through the course of a few hours being different is supposedly just that: a myth. I’m going with it because it makes sense to me logically and I believe in listening to my body. When I eat breakfast, I feel sick. I’ve tried to adopt a policy of eating when I’m hungry, period. So that’s what I’m doing now and it’s working for me. HOWEVER, I’m going to write down what the kids eat for breakfast and other meals because someone asked me what I feed the kids. It’s boring, but they love it and it works with their strict diets (that we’re slowly weaning them off of). If the kids ate something different than me for a meal, I’ve typed up what they have vs. what I have.
Where our groceries come from:
Since I always seem to get a lot of questions about what kind of things I buy or where I buy them from, I included that info when I remembered. Since learning about GMOs and their tie to the exponential rise in allergies (and because my kids are SO allergic), we have tried to cut out GMOs 100%. This means 98% of the stuff we buy is organic, and we only buy non-organic when we have no other option. So you can assume everything here is organic. I don’t want to come off as snobby, because I used to think it was super snobby when people quantified everything they ate with organic, but this is the world we live in now and I have to give my sickly kids the best shot in the world, so we shifted around things in our budget to increase the amount we can spend on groceries. Once the farmer’s market opens, I get most of my produce in that way rather than at Trader Joe’s.
I run a tight snack ship:
My kids rarely finish their breakfast, so it goes into the fridge and that’s the only option they get for a snack if they ask for one in the morning. If they don’t ask for a snack in the morning, I give them their leftover oatmeal in addition to whatever they’re having for lunch. And I do the same at lunch. Whatever they don’t eat goes in the fridge and becomes their afternoon snack. This has seriously alleviated food battles. I don’t say a thing if they don’t want to finish their meals. They now know it goes in the fridge for later. If they don’t want to eat whatever it is for a snack, then they’re out of luck. No snack until the next meal. If they’re truly hungry, they’ll eat it. Otherwise they’re just wanting a snack out of boredom. My mom taught me this and it was night and day difference; we used to have terrible battles over food before starting this a year ago.
Phew, that was a lot of intro! I’m so wordy, I annoy myself.
- Breakfast – Kids: Trader Joe’s Oatmeal with homemade almond milk and a drizzle of pure maple syrup with cut up bananas (we think they may be intolerant of bananas so we’re slowly re-introducing to test this theory out)
- Lunch – Kids: Applegate Farms hot dog, strips of yellow peppers, broccoli with grassfed butter (we use either Kerrygold if we can make it to Costco or Kalona Supernatural if not – the Kalona Supernatural is from Whole Foods), organic frozen cherries (I set out on the counter about 30 minutes before lunch so they’re only a little bit frozen) – from either TJs or WF
- Me: Spinach, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives with balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil (everything is from Trader Joe’s)
- Dinner – Blackened fish (tilapia) with broccoli and quinoa. We don’t like fish but I LOVED this. My mom was here and made the kids a version with oatmeal and almonds crushed up and then grilled it on the stove and they LOVED it. The blackened fish is really spicy, FYI. All from Trader Joe’s. Sense a theme?!
- Snacks – Leftovers and grapes, almonds, raisins (TJs)
- Breakfast - Kids: Trader Joe’s Oatmeal with homemade almond milk and a drizzle of pure maple syrup with cut up bananas
- Lunch - Kids: Applegate Farms hot dog, cantaloupe, broccoli with grassfed butter (everything but butter from TJs)
- Me: Brown rice noodles with alfredo sauce (just cream, butter, a little flour and parmesan cheese), cantaloupe and broccoli
- Dinner – Kids: Leftover oatmeal, broccoli and pears. We did this so we could have an at-home date night once the kiddos were in bed. So we had burgers and fries takeout from an awesome little restaurant here.
- Snacks – Sweet potato chunks sprinkled with a little cinnamon (I buy a big bag of organic sweet potatoes from Trader Joe’s at the beginning of the week and cook them all at one time, then dice them up and stick them in containers in the fridge. My kids love sweet potatoes, Landon now loves sweet potatoes and they’re really healthy for you, so we eat them almost every day).
- Breakfast – Kids: Trader Joe’s oatmeal with almond milk and a drizzle of pure maple syrup with a banana
- Lunch - Turkey (Applegate Farms again), black olives, avocado slices, applesauce (everything but the applesauce is from Trader Joe’s) and a green smoothie: I buy a giant bag of organic spinach and organic fruit from Costco at the beginning of the month, then I make a really big batch of smoothies, freeze them in ice cube trays and put them in ziploc bags and store them in the freezer. I either take out some cubes and stick them in cups the night before in the refrigerator, or I just stick a few cubes into the blender with some more coconut milk the day of. This isn’t the most nutritious way to make smoothies since you lose nutrients by freezing them, but it works. I don’t have the time/energy to make green smoothies from scratch every single day.
- Dinner - Flank Steak marinated in a balsamic marinade and grilled in grassfed butter on the stovetop with a spinach, orange, kalamata olive, goat cheese salad (recipe from The Fresh 20 service which I subscribe to and LOVE), kids got some sweet potatoes, too – everything is from TJs except the butter, which is from Whole Foods
- Snacks – Leftovers and almonds/raisins, slices of pear (all from, yep, TJs)
- Breakfast – Kids: Trader Joe’s oatmeal with almond milk and a drizzle of maple syrup with raisins and cinnamon
- Me: leftovers – don’t laugh, I do this!
- Lunch – Eggs and bacon (eggs were local from a girl who raises backyard chickens and bacon was local from a farm here) and cantaloupe
- Dinner – Quinoa with sauteed veggies (I sauteed everything leftover that needed to be used up, which in our case was zucchini, yellow squash and snap peas). I added a little drizzle of honey, squeezed two lemons into the mixture and two cloves of garlic and cooked all of that for a few more minutes, then added a little mozzarella cheese on top of each bowl and let it melt. I’ve adapted this recipe from the Farmer’s Skillet at Iowa Girl Eats. LOVE. This is one of my husband’s favorites, oddly enough. Most ingredients from TJs, the honey from the Farmer’s Market
- Snacks – Leftovers, dried coconut chips (unsweetened, from the Whole Foods bulk bins), raisins and almond slivers
- Breakfast – Me and the kids: Trader Joe’s oatmeal with almond milk and a drizzle of pure maple syrup
- Lunch – Tinkyada brown rice noodles (I get mine from TJs) with a little celtic sea salt (call them crazy but this is one of my kids’ favorite meals, boring as it is!), snow peas, carrots – All from TJs
- Dinner - This ahhhhh-mazing Chicken Dijon dish from The Fresh 20 on mashed potatoes for Tim and I, brown rice noodles for the kids, with sweet potato casserole as dessert. All ingredients from TJs.
- Snacks – Just leftovers this day
- Breakfast – Trader Joe’s brand “cheerios” with sliced bananas and homemade almond milk for Adalyn/cow’s milk for Ben. I reeeeally dislike doing cereal for breakfast, but we were out of oatmeal and had no eggs, so this was really all I had to work with. Sometimes you do what you’ve gotta do. But honestly, I’m not just saying this, my kids whined for food all morning long after this! At least it’s Trader Joe’s brand so it’s not got GMOs in it, but I really do notice a difference when my kiddos eat processed foods, especially when it’s carbs.
- Lunch - Black beans (bulk from Whole Foods bins) seasoned with a little bit of garlic and cumin, avocado slices, sour cream (Whole Foods – Kalona Supernatural), sweet potato chunks, green smoothies – everything not otherwise noted is from TJs
- Dinner – Barbecue oven chicken with warm corn and brown rice salad and mashed potatoes (sweet potatoes for the kids). Another one from Fresh 20 that was a HUGE hit. Everything from TJs
- Snacks – Diced up pears and leftovers
- Breakfast – $20 if you can guess. ;) TJs oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins and a drizzle of maple syrup.
- Lunch - Leftover brown rice noodles with a little celtic sea salt with cheese melted on top. When I’m feeling adventurous, I make my own mac and cheese by eyeballing it: a little cream, a little cheese, a little butter and a little salt mixed in with some noodles on the stovetop until it all melts. Add a little more cream and/or cheese until you get to your desired consistency and taste. You really don’t need a recipe for this. It’s hard to mess up! Cheese and cream and butter? Perfection no matter how you slice it. Sweet potato chunks and pears, too
- Dinner - Barbecue chicken pizzas (again, Fresh 20) – these are gluten-free and served on corn tortillas with yesterday’s leftover barbecue chicken, shredded, with spinach, corn, cilantro and red onion slices. It wasn’t my favorite meal ever because I don’t love barbecue sauce and my son doesn’t love corn tortillas so he refused to eat it all together, but my husband loved it and my daughter gobbled hers up!
- Snacks – Pears and leftovers
Our breakfast sitch:
Yeah, yeah, we boring breakfast peeps. This started because we went gluten-free and this was the one thing my kids LOVED and would eat day in and day out, and since it’s gluten-free, we stuck with it. It’s also so easy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Before the gluten-free days, I would make big batches of whole wheat pancakes and waffles, applesauce bread and blueberry muffins at the beginning of the month and freeze them so that I could pop them out for quick breakfasts in the morning. We also had yogurt every day. My kids have been dairy-free for the past three months and we have slowly started reintroducing dairy back into Ben’s diet. Adalyn, we’re not sure about yet. I can’t WAIT to add yogurt back in every day! It’s so, so healthy for you, so easy to make on your own and so yummy!
If you are gluten-free and are looking for more variety, here are a few tried and true recipes we’ve found and love: almond flour pancakes and almond flour blueberry muffins
Hope that was semi-helpful! Our kids get water and water only to drink (aside from their morning milk). They love it and I’m anti-juice. Sorry, don’t shoot the messenger! I just think that as long as kids like it (and they like it if it’s all they know), there’s no reason to introduce other drinks like pop or juice into their diets. Not only is it not good for them, but it costs money! Water is essentially free. I’m also a recovering juice addict (for. reals.) and I want to give my kids the best shot at not becoming like mama.
How much do we spend?
The last few weeks we’ve averaged about $150 per week on groceries. I really believe this is due to The Fresh 20, because before that I was lucky to not go over $200 a week. We’re eating almost entirely organic and I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it’s cheap. But I will say there are ways to make it cheaper (like making a lot of food yourself rather than buying the convenience product instead), finding cheaper local sources for produce and meat and dairy. Right now I pay top dollar for milk because I don’t have a better option. So we’re spending $10 a gallon to get “okay” milk (low-temp pasteurized and not homogenized). And we spend $7.00/lb for ground beef. Etc. Some friends who live in other parts of the country have much cheaper options than this. When we visited Greenville, SC, they sold raw milk on the shelf at their farmer’s market for $6/gallon! If I had options like that, I would cut our budget down more. We also eat a lot of meat right now because of the strict diet my kids have been on. When you remove dairy and gluten and soy from a diet, you don’t have a lot of options besides meat. So another way to cut down would be to limit your meat, which I think is probably a good practice anyway. Before putting my kids on this diet, we’d cut down to only 2 or 3 meals a week that were meat-based. I am a HUGE believer in the quality of your meat being of utmost importance, so it makes much more sense to me to pay a farmer what he deserves for well-raised meat and to eat it less often than to buy crap meat and eat it two or three times a day. I also believe that the healthier you eat, the healthier you’ll be. There are things that aren’t preventable. I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do feel that being a good steward to the Earth God gave us and treating my body well are the best ways to guarantee I live longer and live more enjoyably. So yeah, I buy into the philosophy that you pay now to save later hook, line and sinker. And not only do I believe I’ll save money down the line in what would have been extensive medical bills, but I believe I’ll just enjoy life more when I’m in good physical health into my 60s and 70s. Who doesn’t want to retire in good shape?!
Why I use The Fresh 20
The Fresh 20 has in NO WAY sponsored this post even though I have practically become a walking billboard. I’ve tried almost every meal planning service over the years because I truly hate meal planning and making a grocery list every week. It’s a time-suck, and I’m terrible at it. Like I said, I spend $800 and end up throwing way too much food out. Their “20 ingredients or less” premise and the whole foods spin with gluten-free that doesn’t include stuff like xantham gum and highly processed GF flours piqued my interest. So a few weeks ago, I gave it a try. And I must say, I am absolutely in love. They truly are all about whole foods, but in a way that doesn’t break the bank (they focus on being budget-friendly), and the meals are amazing. Guys, I’m serious! So far I’ve loved everything except one dish, which was still good, just not AMAZING like everything else. The part that blows all the other services out of the water, though, is the 20 ingredients or less (meaning fast grocery trips the past two weeks!) and their meal prepping info. Each week they lay out all the things you can and should prep beforehand. So since I work a side job in the house now almost full-time plus care for the kiddos and keep the house, you know, functioning, I have very little time for actual cooking. On Sunday, I prepped everything they told me to prep and it’s made meal time a freakin’ breeze! I spent a few hours chopping, slicing, cooking rice and quinoa and getting everything organized for the week. So come meal time, I literally just throw some things in a skillet and BAM. Dinner. I’m finally broadening my recipe horizons, too!
Now go out and eat healthy, peeps! :)